By Atty. Gilberto Lauengco, J.D.

Remembering Mayor BF's unique management style

September 27, 2023, 11:31 am

“The right way is not always the popular and easy way” – Margaret Chase Smith

When I first met then-Marikina City Mayor Bayani Fernando (BF) back in 1998, I was a newly minted City Administrator of the neighboring Antipolo City under, then first-term Mayor Angelito Gatlabayan. Since it was our first time in local government, I, along with other new city officials of Antipolo, used the Marikina City government as one of our benchmarks and had the privilege of observing and learning many of BF’s methods firsthand.

Unlike many local officials at the time, BF did not use charm or a popular ideology to win over his target voting niche. He applied what can be called an end-goal approach using a top-down/transformational management style. In the end, seeing the effects of his policies, a majority of the people of Marikina appreciated and supported BF’s efforts.

The goals were quite clear. First, the concepts of discipline and responsibility were instilled in the minds of the city’s residents. Second, with the help of a cooperative citizenry, sanitation and public order were maintained. Third, a culture of professionalism and accountability was enforced in the ranks of the city officials and employees. Fourth, city government would deliver the basic services as efficiently and methodically as possible. Lastly, programs and projects that would lay the infrastructure for the city’s development and improvement were prioritized.

In all things, the primary consideration was to achieve the milestones and goals set forth. His motto said it all: “BF Gets It Done”. His top-down management was perfect for an end-goal policy. He was not a micromanager but he would lay down his policy and instructions very clearly and he would often go down to the “trenches” to observe and, sometimes, personally guide or reprimand the city personnel. His disaster preparation and response “guidebook” is still being used in many local governments to this day. The simple act of cutting down tree branches and removing possible dangerous obstructions before a storm became a standard operating procedure for current city disaster managers.

His transformational policy for both city personnel and other stakeholders was also unique. Today’s champions of bare minimum work or progressive load management would suffer severe cognitive dissonance with a management policy that would push civil servants to their limits in achieving end-goals even if it were uncomfortable or difficult. BF’s management style would challenge his personnel to go beyond their comfort levels to perform their duties above and beyond. Even BF’s city hall office design of transparent glass walls would symbolize this transformational management style. The glass walls would allow BF and his equally efficient City Administrator Melvin Cruz to go around and check for any remaining “slackers” in the bureaucracy.

His management policies were instrumental in transforming Marikina City into a competitive local government unit. These policies, however, were not without its share of critics. There were always some sectors who would label his actions as too harsh. Several groups would resist BF’s policies in clearing sidewalks and public properties with lawsuits and PR campaigns. BF, however, had a unique mindset for a politician. He did not care if his actions were unpopular. He would stay the course, as long as, he believed that what he was doing was beneficial, necessary and properly done in favor of his beloved city.

Many say that BF’s policies and style would not be acceptable today. However, I for one, believe that a no-nonsense approach to city management will always be needed.

This is my oblique observation.

Editor’s note: The opinions expressed in the foregoing article are solely the author’s and do not reflect the opinions and beliefs of the Philippine News Agency (PNA) or any other office under the Presidential Communications Office.


About the Columnist

Image of Atty. Gilberto Lauengco, J.D.

ATTY. GILBERTO LAUENGCO, J.D. is a lawyer, educator, political strategist, government consultant, Lego enthusiast, and the director of CAER Think Tank. He is a Former Vice Chairman of MECO, Special Assistant of NFA and City Administrator among others. His broad experience has molded his unique approach to issues analysis which he calls the oblique observation.